Pain management is an integral pillar of modern medicine. Whether the treatment is working or not, the patient will not be satisfied by a doctor’s care if they are in constant pain.
Every human has a myriad of receptors both inside and outside the body. These specialized nerve endings detect the perception of pain.
Traditionally, the world has been using opioid-based medicines. Such drugs mask the action of these receptors via interacting with the opioid system. However, they have deteriorating effects on your bodily organs, especially the liver and kidneys.
Therefore, scientists were conducting thorough research to find a practical solution. Fortunately, they have found potential pain-killing solutions in gene therapy. Some experts are marking it as a revolutionary discovery in the world of pain management.
What is Gene Therapy?
Gene therapy is a vast ocean of treatments that geneticists use to treat various conditions using multiple techniques. It is a complicated set of procedures whose primary objective is to alter your cells’ gene expression.
Gene therapy works on the molecular level. There are several different classes of gene therapy. However, all of them work on the same basic principle.
Scientists administer some chemicals, enzymes that act on your DNA and make some alterations. It either masks the effects of some genes or aggravates the impact of some.
Moreover, you can also use gene therapy to introduce entirely new genes or delete some groups from a DNA molecule. So, what is gene therapy in simple words?
It is a microbiological procedure that uses certain enzymes to bring about changes in your genome, helping treat disease.
How Does Gene Therapy Work?
Gene therapies work on the molecular level, where they bring about changes in the human genome. They regulate gene expression, a process regulating your body’s metabolism by producing functional proteins from DNA.
Additionally, scientists can modify or delete faulty genes and wipe out disease from its roots. You can use it to produce or inhibit certain compounds at the cellular level.
In fact, gene therapy has allowed scientists to develop opioid-free solutions for chronic pain. In essence, gene therapy modifies part of our DNA to inhibit a substance responsible for our perception of pain.
Besides, breakthroughs in medicinal technology have revolutionized how scientists used to go about specific treatments. The CRISPR method is one of those game-changing discoveries.
Scientists working at the University of California San Diego have recently developed the new therapy. It works by temporarily repressing a gene associated with the perception of pain. It is based on the CRISPR method and uses state-of-the-art technology.
People have been suffering from chronic pain for centuries. And until now, there was no viable solution with zero side effects. This novel gene therapy will develop to be perhaps the most widespread method for pain relief.
The Use of CRISPR Technology
What is meant by CRISPR, and how does it work? CRISPR is a gene-editing system composed of several different modified proteins and enzymes. When administered internally, it actively regulates the gene expression inside our cells.
Furthermore, CRISPR is known for its precision and accuracy. It can act on even the most miniature set of genes with minimal errors. Therefore, researchers incorporated this method of gene therapy in their studies.
They used a modified Cs9 protein to target specific binding sites on the DNA that encode a peculiar protein. The latter is responsible for your perception of pain. Hence, scientists chose to modify it and use it for pain relief instead.
Temporary Repression of The Pain Causing Gene
Studies have shown that about 50 percent of all Americans experience chronic pain at least once in their lifetime. These are staggering numbers! The novel gene therapy has an integral part to play in bringing these stats down.
Nonetheless, you feel pain when the neurons in your nervous system release a protein named Nav1.7. It acts as an indicator to our body that some damage has occurred and you need to deal with it.
However, excessive secretion of Nav1.7 causes chronic pain. Therefore, researchers used the CRISPR Cas9 to precisely regulate the gene coding for this Nav1.7 in your cells.
The therapy inhibits the production of this protein and ultimately relieves pain.
It Does No Permanent Damage to Your Genome!
Some people falsely believe that this gene therapy will permanently affect their ability to feel pain. Conversely, the Cas9 temporarily masks the expression of the Nav1.7 gene, which you can retrieve upon treatment of the ailment.
The agents just physically block the expression for a limited time. It does no permanent harm to your genome. Besides, this method is 100 percent free of any type of opioid. Therefore, you can rest assured that there will be no side effects/long-term conditions.
Researchers used this technique on a group of mice—the mice with this gene therapy showed dramatically high thresholds of pain compared to the rest. Scientists performed several tests on these mice, and all of them gave positive, reassuring results.
Moreover, they showed long-lasting effects, which were operational even three weeks after the treatment. Besides, the mice also showed anti-inflammatory abilities for some time.
Opioid-Free Solutions for Chronic Pain – Future Prospects
The success of the initial trial has filled researchers with confidence. They are enthusiastic and scaling this gene therapy for a larger scale. It requires certain modifications before the treatment is ready for human use.
Scientists are currently working on this method as an opioid-free solution for chronic pain. Fortunately, medical technology is at its epitome, and we are hopeful for positive outcomes soon.
Pain is undoubtedly the worst part of a disease. Chronic pain can even lead to psychological disorders, further worsening the condition.
Therefore, people are in dire need of pain relief solutions with minimal side effects. This gene therapy proves to be the key to opioid-free solutions for chronic pain.
Scientists are working to make this treatment available to the general public shortly.